A time to celebrate

When members of the Assn. of Industrial Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators approved a name change at this year's March Management Meeting, the result proved to be symbolic as well as practical. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, the word “Industrial” will change to “International,” reflecting the global reach of both the association and the industry, yet keeping the acronym the same. The association changes with the times but remains AIMCAL, its mission to “serve the global forum for the flexible metallizing, coating, and laminating industry by providing resources, services, and information.”

Craig Sheppard, executive director, explains, “When AIMCAL was first formed, it was really about the people who supplied the coated, laminated, and metallized substrates to the flexible packaging converters. That was what the term ‘industrial’ meant back then — the material suppliers. Since that time, many companies have become vertically integrated; many of our members not only produce those rolls but convert them as well. So the term ‘industrial’ has become somewhat confusing. And, of course, we are becoming more international, offering more value to areas outside of the US in terms of conferences, training, et cetera. So I proposed we change our name from AIMCAL to AIMCAL!”

The word “international” may be new to its name, but AIMCAL's global reach is not. For years the association has participated in exhibitions and brought training courses to Europe, India, and Japan. “Craig and the board have spearheaded increasing the international presence,” says past president David Fletcher. “AIMCAL is certainly spreading its wings.”

Past president Bill Yoder voted for the name change “because the word [international] is more correct now than ever before. AIMCAL's objectives have always been to provide value to our industry, and international coaters and laminators and their suppliers have been joining. We on the board all felt it was fitting to make the change.”

In its April 2000 issue, Paper, Film & Foil Converter offered a supplement saluting AIMCAL on its first 30 years of service to its members and the industry. So this year, as the association celebrates its 40th anniversary, it seems appropriate to look at the accomplishments of the past decade. As we do, it will become clear that while the changes at AIMCAL have been many, the continuity of purpose remains steady.

Giant e-strides

Perhaps nowhere are the strides of AIMCAL in the new millennium more evident than at www.AIMCAL.org, where an amazing array of features offers both members and nonmembers resources in easy-to-use formats.

“AIMCAL was an early adopter of the Internet as a marketing tool. It came as a result of strategic planning and has been very well executed by AIMCAL's management team,” notes past president Paolo Raugei. “In fact, I think it has become a key factor of their marketing strategy.”

As blogging became a popular information medium, AIMCAL launched five sites to help members of the converting community locate the information they need to access new technology and issues facing their organizations and the industry. Each blog features an expert in that area.

An archive capability makes it possible to retain information and discussions for future reference.

Launched in 2007, www.ConvertingSchool.com provides productivity-enhancing educational opportunities for members of the industry, expanding on the popular AIMCAL Summer School program the association has run for more than a decade. Course content combines theory with real-world problem solving and is tailored to the individual students present in each class.

“The focus of these classes is productivity enhancement,” says Sheppard. “Students also will take home ideas for profit-boosting strategies related to process optimization and waste reduction, as well as higher, more consistent product quality and new product development.”

The site www.ConvertingPortal.com provides a one-stop reference point for a wide range of information about converting technology, troubleshooting, training, and events. Primary links include Books and Publications, Technical Proceedings, Training/Tutorials, AIMCAL Jobs, Webinars, Industry Events, and the AIMCAL Defects Library. Links take website visitors to industry publications and trade shows as well as other organizations.

Are you looking for coated or metallized films or papers, adhesives, converting equipment, or services? The website www.AskAIMCAL.org allows users to submit requests to more than 220 companies worldwide.

One of the most recent (and popular) additions to the AIMCAL offerings is the webinar, cosponsored by PFFC and featuring an array of topics covered by top industry consultants. The recorded webinar is available on the website, free to anyone, for one week. After that it goes into the Audio Library for members only.

A recent webinar series covered Process Troubleshooting-Web Technology and Six Sigma Methodology; Vacuum Deposit Barrier Coatings; and Troubleshooting-Process/Adhesion/Vacuum. A 2009 Sustainability Series offered five sessions on what is probably the hottest topic in the industry. Sheppard says webinar signups come from all over the globe, and the association is building a resource for the future with the archived information.

Continuing to grow

In 2003 AIMCAL took a major step toward broadening its focus and serving its members by joining forces with the Converting Equipment Mfrs. Assn. (CEMA). Sheppard reported, “Bringing equipment suppliers and converters together will help both sides develop and implement new technology, improve efficiencies, build business, and establish new relationships.”

Past president Frank Sereno said at the time, “The integration of CEMA as a division within AIMCAL adds value for members of both groups. [It] brings CEMA members closer to their customers and gives AIMCAL members access to highly respected educational offerings, especially in the area of safety, which has been a major focus of CEMA for many years.”

While busy adding to its membership and offerings, AIMCAL continues its long history of informative conferences. In 2001 the Fall Technical Conference merged with the Intl. Vacuum Web Coating Conference, known as the Bakish Conference in honor of its founder Dr. Bob Bakish. Dr. Bakish still is actively involved with the conference and received the prestigious AIMCAL President's Award at the last fall conference.

The association also continues to promote networking opportunities, distribute economic information, and honor the best of the best at its annual awards competition. That competition now recognizes the “green” movement with a Sustainability Award. Added in 2009, the new award honors equipment, materials, or processes that reduce environmental impact, minimize energy usage or waste, and/or increase recycling.

Fit for the future

AIMCAL will face challenges in the years ahead, as will the industry. Fletcher says improvements in coating technology have led to less art and more science. “On the market side, there have been some very big changes. For example, in the early 2000s there was still a lot of demand for photographic films and film for audio and video tapes. That demand has diminished greatly. Now there's a huge demand for products relating to displays and photovoltaic applications. In another major shift, Asia has become a major consumer of the products our industry makes.”

Fletcher believes the industry will meet these new demands successfully, as will the association. “AIMCAL is on the right track,” he says. “I see continued membership growth, particularly with wider global presence. And certainly more use of information technology.”

Bob Burgess, another past president of AIMCAL, also sees challenges ahead for the association. “They must continue to become more international and to embrace new segments that are involved in growth aspects of converting web materials, primarily medical converted products, green technologies, and solar power activities.” Burgess sees a bright future for AIMCAL. “They have the tools and capabilities to make those changes.”

“There will always be more consolidation as certain segments become more mature,” adds former president Chuck Larsen. “I see quite a few technical innovations. Flexible packaging is an ideal answer for some of the environmental concerns, and a great deal of innovation will come there. Also, the sputtering markets, LEDs, LCDs, and these product lines, there's tremendous innovation coming there. I see exciting times ahead but continuing competitive difficult times as well. That won't go away.”

Having an association such as AIMCAL during those difficult times will ease the way, according to a couple of past presidents. “AIMCAL provides a gathering place…for face-to-face contact,” says Yoder. “It's the best value I have ever found to improve the companies I have worked with.”

Larsen agrees. “AIMCAL is an association with people who are very nice and easy to relate to, who come together to discuss common issues, and who help each other out. The association is extremely helpful, especially to new people in the industry. This is its history, this is part of AIMCAL's culture.” Burgess agrees as well. When asked what is special about AIMCAL, he is quick to answer, “The people.”

“Despite the association's many accomplishments, the best is yet to come,” Sheppard predicts. “We expect the next ten years to bring even more new services and value to members around the globe.”

For more on AIMCAL and the coating industry, check out our timeline of highlights from the past decade, see Charles Bishop's article on vacuum web coating (p42), Ed Cohen's take on converting technology trends (p47), and the winners of the Peter Rigney Product of the Year Award for the past ten years (below). Definitely pay a visit to www.AIMCAL.org, and keep your eye on the future. AIMCAL will be there.

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